Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Surreal "Learning"

Jenny D is having an interesting discussion on the question: Are Teachers Responsible for Student Learning?

In the surreal climate created by the dominant progressive/constructivist ed ideology, this question cannot be taken at face value. Someone unfamiliar with this creed might innocently assume that "learning" is the same as academic achievement. That's not at all the case. "Learning" has an idiosyncratic meaning that can only be unraveled by immersing oneself in the thoughtworld of this regnant anti-intellectual ideology.

Professor of education
George K. Cunningham discussed this peculiar meaning of "learning" at an AEI conference:

Education schools are certainly going to survive. The more important question is whether they will be relevant. To answer this question it is necessary to define two distinctly different belief systems in education. The first of the two asserts that the most important purpose of education is the enhancement of academic achievement. The public, legislatures, governors and the No Child Left Behind legislation (NCLB) all support this position. Proponents of this view want students to increase their reading comprehension, become more skilled at performing mathematical computations, know history, and understand science. The operational definition of academic achievement is performance on academic achievement tests. The adoption of academic achievement as the primary purpose for our schools is an assertion that schools are best evaluated in terms of how their students perform rather than by what teachers are doing. The selection of instructional method is determined through an examination of their effectiveness in terms of academic achievement.

Education schools and the national organizations that support them have a different focus. They believe that instructional methods should be evaluated in terms of their fidelity to a progressive philosophy of education. Their focus is on "learning" rather than academic achievement. While the terms "academic achievement" and "learning" may appear to refer to the same activities, the instructional methods designed to enhance "learning" are primarily child-centered and may not only fail to increase academic achievement, they may actually degrade it. Instead of teachers teaching students, they believe that it is the role of a good teacher to create the proper environment for learning and if this done properly, students will "learn" by constructing their own meaning. "Learning," unlike academic achievement, is evaluated in terms of what the teachers is doing. It does not require an examination of what is happening to the students in the classroom.

Also relevant to Jenny's discussion is a book I recently referenced that analyzes how dominant ed doctrines undermine student efforts and responsibilities

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